The FPC junior's idea started with the agony of her feet; now she'll be competing against 32 other students to share in a prize pool of $18,000.
Hailey Tucker went back and forth deciding on an elective to take last year at Flagler Palm Coast High School. Finally, she decided on entrepreneurship to learn about the business world.
Now the junior is one of 33 high school students across the nation who have advanced to the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.
You could say she’s a quick study.
The Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge series and FPC’s entrepreneurship class was created by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship. The challenge series is a Shark Tank style competition in which students come up with a product and business model and pitch it to a panel of entrepreneurs and executives.
Tucker had to advance through school, district and regional competitions to qualify for the national finals. The nationals will be held virtually on Oct. 21 with the competitors vying for a prize pool of $18,000.
“I didn’t have to do much coaching with Hailey,” said Corrine Shaefer, who started the NFTE class at FPC last year. “She kind of came with the full package. She’s an amazing public speaker. When she presented, it was a different level.”
Tucker said it helped that she landed on a product that she’s passionate about. A long-time soccer player, Tucker has always had trouble finding cleats that fit. Women’s cleats usually don’t fit because she has a wide foot. And for men’s cleats, she’s in between sizes. Customized cleats are limited, and expensive.
So, she did some research and came up with a business plan to produce her own custom cleats. She calls her company Custom F.C., the home of the WinMaker Cleats.
F.C. can stand for a number of things, she said. Football Cleats. Fitted Cleats. Football Club.
“It takes so much time and effort to find the right cleats,” she said. “So many players, and myself, play with broken cleats, and we tape them up. So, the idea for the business came as a way to make it an easier and faster way to give players the perfect cleat that they can know and trust to play in, but is also aesthetically pleasing and has the designs and color they like. You can make your own cleat, essentially.”
The trick to coming up with the right business is to be an innovator, not an inventor, Shaefer said.
“(NFTE) believes in bringing equity into schools,” she said. “You don’t have to be a millionaire brainiac to start a business and be creative and innovative. A lot of them come in and think you have to come up with a brand, new idea. That’s not true. Soccer cleats have been around forever.”
Judges for the national finals include executives from presenting sponsors Citi and Ernst & Young; entrepreneurs and rapper/singer Saweetie, who founded Icy Baby Foundation.
Tucker is well prepared to answer their questions. She has picked out a storefront she could rent on U.S. 1. She knows the machinery she’ll need, the materials she'll need and the start-up costs.
At first she’ll have three different kinds of stud placement and a few color choices. Customers will come in and have their feet scanned. A 3-D model will be created. The cleat will be molded to the player’s foot shape. Customers can decide how much cushioning and support they want within the insole, and how they want the cleats laced.
“We’ll manufacture the cleat at the store, because it has to be hand done, each one individually,” she said. “I’ve been researching and watching videos. But big companies aren’t going to give you step-by-step instructions on how to make them.”
The price? You’ll be able to buy the first Custom F.C. WinMakers for $245. If Tucker decides to go ahead with her plans. Any prize money she might win could go toward her company or her education.
She won $500 as a runner-up in the Southeast Regional and that has gone into her education fund.
“I’m still deciding if I want to use some of it for my business,” she said. “I want to see how far it goes. There are a lot of fixed payments at the beginning, all of the manufacturing equipment. You have to jump in with both feet.”
But as the perfect customer for her own company she’d love to get a pair of WinMakers on her own feet.
“I’d probably be the first one,” she said. “The tester.”